march 13, 2003

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RSC Physics Department Nationally Recognized, Preparing for Site Visit

Four years ago, the Rose State College physics department was close to extinction, with only 72 enrollments and an outdated curriculum. Now, it's among the top 10 two-year physics programs in the nation. Enrollment this year is close to 385 and the College is expanding its physics curriculum and offering courses not often found on the two-year college level, such as Modern Physics for Engineers.

The department was recently selected by the Strategic Programs for Innovations in Undergraduate Physics at Two Year Colleges, or SPIN-UP/TYC, project directors based on its responses to a site selection instrument specifically designed for this project. The project is a program of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

"Rose State College has a very strong physics program and we look forward to our visit to campus on March 28 as we seek to identify and verify factors contributing to the success of the program," said SPIN-UP/TYC Project Director Mary Beth Monroe. "We will make about 10 site visits to selected two-year college physics programs across the United States, which can demonstrate excellence in one or more areas: recruitment and retention of science/math majors, particularly physics majors; recruitment of minorities and women into the sciences; successful implementation and maintenance of educational innovations; and science preparation for future pre-college teachers."

The site visit findings will be published in a project final report in early 2004. The Advanced Technological Education Program of the National Science Foundation is funding the visits.

Professor Jim Gilbert teaches the majority of the physics classes. Innovative faculty members like him are part of a plan at RSC to increase the number of science courses available to students to better prepare them for careers or to enter four-year colleges. Ask Engineering and Science Dean Jamie Graham the main reason for the turnaround and national recognition and she's quick to answer: teamwork.

"We are extremely proud of Professor Gilbert's dedication to his students and of his efforts to build an academically strong physics program. The main reason Professor Gilbert has been so successful at increasing enrollments in physics is that he personally connects with each student and makes their success his priority," Dr. Graham said. "He and Professor Chad Ellington mentor each student individually, encourage them to reach their potential and to develop self-discipline, and expect the students to learn the skills necessary to be successful in the sciences. Many of their students achieve successes that they would not have had if not for the skills and work ethic that they learned from these professors."

Many students from area universities are enrolling here at Rose to take advantage of this positive learning environment. Enrollments have increased to the point that the College has hired an additional physics professor, Chad Ellington, who has a strong background in astronomy as well as physics.

"These professors share the same goals, which are all centered around maintaining a positive learning environment for the students," Graham said. "The combination of Gilbert and Ellington has made the perfect physics team and I expect to see continued expansion of the physics and related programs."

Story Contact: Vicki Patterson, Rose State College